Economics & Religion: Wealth, Inequality & Islam

Theories, Practices, Institutions, & Ideas


This is a survey course for undergraduate students interested in learning about the economic, religious, and political systems that produce wealth, use natural and human resources, design financial institutions, and structure business organizations. Generally, this course is about how people, individually and collectively, organize different aspects of production and distribution of goods and services for current and future use by members of society–given the resources at hand and the determinant value systems to which society adhere.

Over the span of 15 weeks, students will read and watch content (texts, stats, and videos) organized in 15 thematic modules starting with the definitions of key terms and concepts and ending with the analysis and critique of transformative theoretical ideas.

We explore the meaning, history, and functions of key ideas and events that have shaped economic and institutions paying special attention to causes of inequality and other social disparity patterns and trends.

We survey the impact of religious and cultural norms on legacy issues like property, poverty, labor, land, education, wealth, and social security.

We investigate the origins, functions and impact of Islamic and Semitic religions’ ideas and practices in the realms of economic development, financial services and products, business ethics and practices, and business models.

We analyze the impact of religious ideas and practices on social justice matters that touch on individual and group identity along class, gender, ethnicity, and race; the role of religion in deciding public policy and directing communal relations.

We examine the body of literature and data dealing with economics and Islam from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, including law, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, and political science. The course draws on settled knowledge in a variety of disciplines to allow students to see the rich connections among academic disciplines and economic and social institutions.


A detailed schedule of lecture topics, reading assignments, and in-class activities will be made available on the online course management system.

Textbooks (Required):

  • Reading Packets: Collection of Chapters and Articles (Online course management system)

Select Readings:

• Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism; by Lexington Books
• Faith and money: How religion contributes to wealth and poverty; by Cambridge University Press, 2011.
• Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice; by Cambridge University Press
• Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Gorgias Islamic Studies); by Gorgias Press
• The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East; by Princeton University Press
• Tripp, Charles. Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
• A Discourse on Political Economy; By Jean-Jacques Rousseau
• A History of Interest and Debt: Ancient Civilizations (Islamic Business and Finance Series); by Routledge
• Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey (Volume 45); by University of California Press
• Discourse on Inequality, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau


The course will involve reading required articles and chapters , watching video presentations, writing research notes and essays, engaging in group activities, and participating online discussions.


Final grade distribution:

  • Prompted Essays & Group Discussions: 25%
  • Book Reviews and Research Notes: 25%
  • Quizzes and exams: 25%
  • Engagement and Participation, 25%

The breakdown of the grade per category/exam will be outlined on each test/project and posted online.

Accessibility Matters

Statement from the Instructor:

The instructor is committed to making this course as accessible as possible to all students given the means at his disposal. For instance, exams’ time and duration are designed to allow all students, irrespective of their ability/disability status. The instructor reviews the data of exams and quizzes and adjusts the time to make sure that all students can finish the exam during the allotted time. Because exams and quizzes are administered online, the instructor sees no compelling value in making students compete against the clock. Exams are designed deliberately to focus on specific learning objectives and relying on specific teaching philosophy. The time is limited for the purpose of directing students to focus only on taking the exams–not on consulting their notes while taking exams. Students are strongly encouraged to review their notes and study before taking exams and between attempts but not while taking them. The rationale for these practices is detailed in the instructor’s teaching philosophy and learning objectives.

Here are the accessibility measures taken by instructor to accommodate students with special needs/circumstances:

  1. The time of exams is monitored and set in way that will allow all students to finish them before times expires.
  2. Students are allowed to take each quiz more than once with only the highest score counted.
  3. Quizzes and other graded assignments will be available over the span of several days to allow students with special circumstances (health, work, and/or travel circumstances, etc.) to plan and have some options for when to take exams.
  4. The instructor may make lecture slides (or recordings when possible) available for students. However, students are expected to build their own lecture notes covering both the reading assignments and the lectures. The instructor is willing to mentor students about best practices in notetaking.
  5. Despite these access-focused voluntary measures, instructor recognizes that some students may need additional accommodations. If a student feels that this may be the case for them, they should read the statement from the University, below, and contact instructor to discuss in private, specific requests for accommodation that apply to them given the structure of the course as described.
  6. Videos and slides may include graphics, maps, and information that may not be fully and readily captured by the accompanying audio files (lectures), thus making it inaccessible to students with certain visual impairments. These students are advised to contact Student Disability Services (SDS), Teaching Center and other student support offices to inquire about the availability of visual aids/resources to address these limitations that cannot be accommodated by the instructor.

Statement from the University:

The University of Iowa is committed to providing an educational experience that is accessible to all students. A student may request academic accommodations for a disability (which include but are not limited to mental health, attention, learning, vision, and physical or health-related conditions). A student seeking academic accommodations should first register with Student Disability Services and then meet with the course instructor privately in the instructor’s office to make particular arrangements. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between the student, instructor, and SDS. See for information.

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